"Questions - Answers"
J. Krishnamurti


Question: How does truth, as you have said, when repeated become a lie? What really is a lie? Why is it wrong to lie? Is not this a profound and subtle problem on all the levels of our existence?

Krishnamurti: There are two questions in this, so let us examine the first, which is: When a truth is repeated, how does it become a lie? What is it that we repeat? Can you repeat an understanding? I understand something. Can I repeat it? I can verbalize it, I can communicate it but the experience is not what is repeated, surely? We get caught in the word and miss the significance of the experience. If you have had an experience, can you repeat it? You may want to repeat it, you may have the desire for its repetition, for its sensation, but once you have had an experience, it is over, it cannot be repeated. What can be repeated is the sensation and the corresponding word that gives life to that sensation. As, unfortunately, most of us are propagandists, we are caught in the repetition of the word. So we live on words, and the truth is denied.

Take, for example, the feeling of love. Can you repeat it ? When you hear the words 'Love your neighbour', is that a truth to you? It is truth only when you do love your neighbour; and that love cannot be repeated but only the word. Yet most of us are happy, content, with the repetition, 'Love your neighbour' or 'Don't be greedy'. So the truth of another, or an actual experience which you have had, merely through repetition, does not become a reality. On the contrary, repetition prevents reality. Merely repeating certain ideas is not reality.

The difficulty in this is to understand the question without thinking in terms of the opposite. A lie is not something opposed to truth. One can see the truth of what is being said, not in opposition or in contrast, as a lie or a truth; but just see that most of us repeat without understanding. For instance, we have been discussing naming and not naming a feeling and so on. Many of you will repeat it, I am sure, thinking that it is the 'truth'. You will never repeat an experience if it is a direct experience. You may communicate it but when it is a real experience the sensations behind it are gone, the emotional content behind the words is entirely dissipated.

Take, for example, the idea that the thinker and the thought are one. It may be a truth to you, because you have directly experienced it. If I repeated it, it would not be true, would it? - true, not as opposed to the false, please. It would not be actual, it would be merely repetitive and therefore would have no significance. You see, by repetition we create a dogma, we build a church and in that we take refuge. The word and not truth, becomes the 'truth'. The word is not the thing. To us, the thing is the word and that is why one has to be so extremely careful not to repeat something which one does not really understand. If you understand something, you can communicate it, but the words and the memory have lost their emotional significance. Therefore if one understands that, in ordinary conversation, one's outlook, one's vocabulary, changes.

As we are seeking truth through self-knowledge and are not mere propagandists, it is important to understand this. Through repetition one mesmerizes oneself by words or by sensations. One gets caught in illusions. To be free of that, it is imperative to experience directly and to experience directly one must be aware of oneself in the process of repetition, of habits, or words, of sensations. That awareness gives one an extraordinary freedom, so that there can be a renewal, a constant experiencing, a newness.

The other question is: "What really is a lie? Why is it wrong to lie? Is this not a profound and subtle problem on all the levels of our existence?" What is a lie? A contradiction, isn't it?, a self-contradiction. One can consciously contradict or unconsciously; it can either be deliberate or unconscious; the contradiction can be either very, very subtle or obvious. When the cleavage in contradiction is very great, then either one becomes unbalanced or one realizes the cleavage and sets about to mend it.

To understand this problem, what is a lie and why we lie, one has to go into it without thinking in terms of an opposite. Can we look at this problem of contradiction in ourselves without trying not to be contradictory? Our difficulty in examining this question is, is it not?, that we so readily condemn a lie but, to understand it, can we think of it not in terms of truth and falsehood but of what is contradiction? Why do we contradict? Why is there contradiction in ourselves? Is there not an attempt to live up to a standard, up to a pattern - a constant approximation of ourselves to a pattern, a constant effort to be something, either in the eyes of another or in our own eyes? There is a desire, is there not? to conform to a pattern; when one is not living up to that pattern, there is contradiction.

Now why do we have a pattern, a standard, an approximation, an idea which we are trying to live up to? Why? Obviously to be secure, to be safe, to be popular, to have a good opinion of ourselves and so on. There is the seed of contradiction. As long as we are approximating ourselves to something, trying to be something, there must be contradiction; therefore there must be this cleavage between the false and the true. I think this is important, if you will quietly go into it. Not that there is not the false and the true; but why the contradiction in ourselves? Is it not because we are attempting to be something - to be noble, to be good, to be virtuous, to be creative, to be happy and so on? in the very desire to be something, there is a contradiction - not to be something else. It is this contradiction that is so destructive. If one is capable of complete identification with something, with this or with that, then contradiction ceases; when we do identify ourselves completely with something, there is self-enclosure, there is a resistance, which brings about unbalance - which is an obvious thing.

Why is there contradiction in ourselves? I have done something and I do not want it to be discovered; I have thought something which does not come up to the mark, which puts me in a state of contradiction, and I do not like it. Where there is approximation, there must be fear and it is this fear that contradicts. Whereas if there is no becoming, no attempting to be something, then there is no sense of fear; there is no contradiction; there is no lie in us at any level, consciously or unconsciously - something to be suppressed, something to be shown up. As most of our lives are a matter of moods and poses, depending on our moods, we pose - which is contradiction. When the mood disappears, we are what we are. It is this contradiction that is really important, not whether you tell a polite white lie or not. So long as this contradiction exists, there must be a superficial existence and therefore superficial fears which have to be guarded - and then white lies - , you know, all the rest of it follows. Let us look at this question, not asking what is a lie and what is truth but, without these opposites, go into the problem of contradiction in ourselves - which is extremely difficult, because as we depend so much on sensations, most of our lives are contradictory. We depend on memories, on opinions; we have so many fears which we want to cover up - all these create contradiction in ourselves; when that contradiction becomes unbearable, one goes off one's head. One wants peace and everything that one does creates war, not only in the family but outside. Instead of understanding what creates conflict, we only try to become more and more one thing or the other, the opposite, thereby creating greater cleavage.

Is it possible to understand why there is contradiction in ourselves - not only superficially but much more deeply, psychologically? First of all, is one aware that one lives a contradictory life? We want peace and we are nationalists; we want to avoid social misery and yet each one of us is individualistic, limited, self-enclosed. We are constantly living in contradiction. Why? Is it not because we are slaves to sensation? This is neither to be denied nor accepted. It requires a great deal of understanding of the implications of sensation, which are desires. We want so many things, all in contradiction with one another. We are so many conflicting masks; we take on a mask when it suits us and deny it when something else is more profitable, more pleasurable. It is this state of contradiction which creates the lie. In opposition to that, we create 'truth'. But surely truth is not the opposite of a lie. That which has an opposite is not truth. The opposite contains its own opposite, therefore it is not truth and to understand this problem very profoundly, one must be aware of all the contradictions in which we live. When I say, 'I love you', with it goes jealousy, envy, anxiety, fear - which is contradiction. It is this contradiction which must be understood and one can understand it only when one is aware of it, aware without any condemnation or justification - merely looking at it. To look at it passively, one has to understand all the processes of justification and condemnation.

It is not an easy thing, to look passively at something; but in understanding that, one begins to understand the whole process of the ways of one's feeling and thinking. When one is aware of the full significance of contradiction in oneself, it brings an extraordinary change: you are yourself, then, not something you are trying to be. You are no longer following an ideal, seeking happiness. You are what you are and from there you can proceed. Then there is no possibility of contradiction.